• Mayo Mindfulness: Choose to inventory gratitude

A woman holding a book or journal in her hand, getting ready to write in it.This time of year is one of introspection for many people. A new year can provide a tangible way for you to look at things differently and consider what can be done to improve the quality of your life.

Dr. Beth Rush, a Mayo Clinic neuropsychologist, says goals and resolutions don't need to be stressful. "I feel like we should always be in this process of learning how we can become a better person," says Dr. Rush.

She says regardless of where you come from or what your financial status is, "I think we can all agree that gratitude is about truly recognizing the gifts you’ve been given in life, whether that’s the relationships you have, the work you’ve been given, the food you can eat, the shelter that you have." She adds, "Appreciating the animals in your life, the small gestures that you see of one stranger helping another, those are the things that all of us can appreciate and it’s important to take inventory of those and to notice them."

Watch: Dr. Rush discusses what it means to inventory gratitude.

Journalists: Broadcast-quality sound bites with Dr. Rush are int he downloads at the end of the post. Please 'Courtesy: Mayo Clinic News Network.'  

Dr. Rush says if our minds are cluttered with a to-do list and feelings of guilt or obligation, we won’t take the time to notice the important things that reflect gratitude.

"I think, going into the new year, a very simple way to reflect on the concept of gratitude would be to ask, where was I last year?" says Dr. Rush. "What do I have now that I didn’t have last year? Is it a new relationship? Do I have a different job? Do I have greater financial security? Am I eating better? What's different this year and why did I make that change?"

The way people inventory gratitude is important, according to Dr. Rush. Some people need a journal or a list of daily social media posts. "Other people just need the reminder to pause and reflect, or maybe they need someone to ask them what are you grateful for?" During the holidays, at a family or work gathering, Dr. Rush suggests asking each other what makes you grateful this time of year. "It can be a wonderful way of establishing a new level of connection with someone you don’t know as well," adds Dr. Rush.

"I think everyone goes into a new year wanting to make all kinds of positive changes for him or herself, but the real challenge is figuring out, can I choose one or two things that’ll be meaningful for me," says Dr. Rush.  "And can I commit to an understanding of why I want to make those changes in a realistic timeline." Dr. Rush warns against going into the new year with too many commitments.  I’m going to be introducing stress for myself and I won’t be approaching behavior change with any sense of compassion, which is hopefully why I’m making the change."

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